The history of St. Thérèse reaches back to May of 1942 when Msgr. J. F. Govaert, the pastor of St. Paul's, purchased the original site on which the church and parish elementary school were built.
That Oregon Avenue site, presently the location of Portsmouth Catholic Elementary School, is where the tiny parish of St. Thérèse was born. Father Thomas Finnegan was appointed pastor on June 16th, 1954. The new parish, which was quartered in a corner of the Little Flower School for nearly 16 years, first opened its doors Sunday, September 5th, 1954.
Immediately the parish began to grow. Father Finnegan was succeeded by Father Joseph Leitch in 1959. Religious and social activities prospered during the tenure of these first two pastors.
In 1964, Father William Connelly was appointed pastor. During his tenure at St. Thérèse the church was refurbished and informally designated as a Chapel, a term more in keeping with its physical size.
Because of the consolidation of all parish elementary schools in Portsmouth at the site of Little Flower School, St. Thérèse was asked to relinguish its space. On June 8th, 1970, the last liturgy was celebrated in the chapel that had been St. Thérèse's for nearly 16 years.
Father Frank Ready was appointed pastor, and from June 16th, 1970 until June 24th, 1972, the parish family of St. Thérèse gathered for mass in the auditorium of Chittum Elementary School. The ground breaking for our present church took place on August 1st, 1971, and the new church was dedicated on June 24th, 1972.
When Father Albert Pereira succeeded Father Ready in 1972, he added an office wing and a residence wing to the main structure. Father Pereira was followed by Father Robert French, who was pastor until 1983.
On June 1st, Father James Griffin was assigned to St. Thérèse. More than twenty years has passed since the first church has been built. Because of growth in membership, the building needed to be expanded and the space renovated. Construction began on November 1st, 1995 and the parish celebrated with a dedication of the new space on June 16th, 1996.
On June 1st, 1998, our present pastor, Father Robert Cummins, arrived.
St. Thérèse is on the threshold of great changes. Because of growth in our ministries, we are attracting more and more people to our parish who are, in turn, adding to the storehouse of talent and gifts. We are discovering new ways of reaching out to parishioners and our sisters and brothers beyond our parish family. We are a parish committed to living out Christ's Gospel challenge. Although we cannot know the future, our present continues to be exciting and Spirit-filled!